Confessions Of An Ethical Vegan

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Confessions Of An Ethical Vegan

When I first saw them, I couldn’t believe it.  I had been searching so long for them.  Well, maybe not them per se, but something like them.  I excitedly grabbed them and, after double checking the back, ran full speed to buy them.

I couldn’t wait.  I told the cashier that I didn’t need a bag as I handed her my money.  I ran a hundred different scenarios in my head, trying to remember of all the ways that I had previously thought of if I ever found them.  Did I have everything I needed?

I walked outside the store and looked around.  Could everyone tell how happy I was?  How greedy?  As I walked to my car, I used my teeth to open the sleeve and pull out that first delicate piece and took a bite.  I was in heaven.

I polished off the first sleeve even before I made it home.  Once I arrived however, I immediately grabbed the jar of peanut butter.  Oh, this was going to be good.  As I slapped the first “sandwich” together I kept thinking how strange I had never seen this brand before.  I’ve been seeking out these for such a long time, to come across them so easily- well, it was odd.

The rest of the day and night passed with me in a wonderful, almost childlike, exuberance- polishing off sleeve after sleeve of deliciousness.  It wasn’t until the next morning that the bliss I enjoyed the day and night before came unraveled.

I was making lunch, something healthy after my over-snacking from the day before, and I opened the cupboard to grab something.  The box of goodness, ripped and crumpled from use, had been thrown in there from the night before and now rested on it’s side.  As I reached passed it, something caught my eye.  What was that, why do they print words so small on boxes?  I looked and did a double-take.  I grabbed the box, looked at it with regret, and dumped it straight into the trash*.

Now what?  I’m an ethical vegan.  Do I tell people?  I run a vegan website, are they going to find out?  Are people going to think I’m dumb?  That I did it on purpose?  Should I have wasted the food?  What is an ethical vegan to do when they find out they’ve unknowingly ate part of an animal?

You learn, grow, and evolve.  Remember that veganism is a journey and that it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s easier to make mistakes than it is not to.  The important thing is that you never give up, never stop trying, and never stop learning.  And don’t forget, if you do make a mistake- let other people know.  Vegans need to share information so we all can benefit from it.  Talk about it on Twitter, talk about it on Facebook.  Veganism is not about perfection, it’s about compassion- it’s also about unlearning a learned behaviors.  You are still a vegan if you make a mistake and eat a non-vegan food, promise.

So, what did I eat?  New Morning Cinnamon Graham Crackers and they contain honey.  Honey comes from a bee, which is an animal.  Honestly, I read the box, looked for honey- it’s common in graham crackers.  But this time, this time I missed it and I nearly polished off an entire box (we’ll talk about my eating habits later, thank you very much) before I realized what I was eating.

Confession, I am an ethical vegan and I

[unknowingly] ate honey and liked it.  But now that I know [and since my taste preferences do not define my morals or ethics], I learned from my mistake.  And because I did, I’ll never buy New Morning Cinnamon Graham Crackers ever again.  They are not vegan.

Feel free to leave your own confession below.  There will be no judging, no berating- just learning from each other.

[Update] *As evidenced above, I ate nearly the entire box of graham crackers before I realized my mistake. I threw 2 graham crackers in the garbage in lieu of eating them. I felt then, as I do now, that I didn’t want to consume any more animal products than I already had.  The folks who are mentioning not throwing away food are right. I should have given them to the birds or friends.  Which just further demonstrates the point of this post- mistakes happen.  We learn from them and move on.  I continue to evolve in my veganism, this story is only one example of that.
September 22nd, 2011|Op-Ed|

About the Author:

Founder & Creator of Your Daily Vegan. Twitter: @YourDailyVegan

36 Comments

  1. Hakeem Malcolm November 1, 2017 at 6:42 am - Reply

    My grandfather knows I don’t consume animal products, he normally buys me things and checks the ingredients. He bought me these veggie burgers that contained milk in them and because he is my grandfather I trusted him. Now I know not to eat or use ANYTHING without checking the ingredients first. I feel like a traitor to the animals.

  2. Brittany March 3, 2016 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m in my first week of being a vegan and my friend that I hadn’t seen in forever took me out to eat. I ordered the only vegetable dish on the menu and after I ate it I realized that it was cooked with butter and some of the other ingredients contained eggs. I’ve been beating myself up about this because being an ethical vegan I feel bad. But this gives me a piece of mind that mistakes happen and it’s okay. I can continue my vegan journey and perhaps speak up a little more when I need something more veganized. Again thanks, I can stop berating myself and get back to the my journey (:

  3. Lisa February 22, 2016 at 9:13 am - Reply

    Last night my mom made me pasta and assured me that the sauce she used was vegan. I checked the sauce ingredients this morning and it clearly says skim milk and cheese. I feel bad for believing my mom and not checking the ingredients first. Also, I’m vegan for the animals and HEALTH too so it disgusts me that I ate milk and cheese. ):

    • KD Traegner February 22, 2016 at 4:08 pm - Reply

      Don’t feel bad- it happens. Next time you’ll be able to let your mom know that the sauce isn’t vegan. We live in a non-vegan world which makes it easy to accidentally consume some animal products. It’s all about learning and growing. Veganism is all about compassion- remember that includes towards yourself too! :)

  4. Courtney Bruno May 10, 2015 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    I have been unknowingly been taking supplements with gelatin casing for a month or two now and feel so incredibly terrible for the animals that might’ve been hurt in the process. my heart is literally breaking into a thousand pieces i feel so bad

  5. Charleen September 23, 2011 at 10:35 am - Reply

    When Thyestes discovered that he had eaten his own sons, he didn’t continue with his meal because “he had already ingested them and they tasted good.”
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with moral/personal purity. In fact, there’s not enough of it in this world.

  6. Neil K September 23, 2011 at 9:02 am - Reply

    In this society it’s virtually impossible NOT to ‘make a mistake’ or use some products that contain some kind of animal ingredient. Ingrid Newkirk, back before digital cameras, used to comment on how camera film (made with gelatin) was a necessary evil (paraphrasing here). All we can expect of ourselves is to do our best, lead by example, and with that, in spite of the challenges, we can feel good about the vegan lifestyle we’ve chosen.

  7. Eat Plants and Run September 23, 2011 at 7:49 am - Reply

    I had a FB friend inform me that Stonyfield’s O’Soy yogurt has dairy in it. I was shocked. I’ve become pretty good, I think, at looking at labels, so I immediately ran to my fridge and looked at my carton of yogurt. And there it was, Contains: MILK. Whaaaaa?!? I was so frustrated and upset, I immediately tweeted them to ask why their soy product would contain dairy, as there were also no actual ingredients that I noticed that pointed to dairy. But, as you and others have said, veganism is a learning process. I had to learn that Morningstar had eggs and dairy and Starbucks light frappuccinos have dairy. It’s a process and I’m not striving for absolute perfection, just to be the best I can be. Thanks for sharing and for your honesty :)

  8. Mich September 23, 2011 at 6:14 am - Reply

    We definitely all make mistakes. I like how you said being vegan was a journey. That is so true!

    I found out this past year that many, if not most, restaurants make their breakfast potatoes (sometimes called home fries) with chicken stock!!! Who would have thought potatoes might not even be vegetarian!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Since then, have also found that some places make their rice with beef or chicken stock, and even mixed vegetables sometimes!

  9. Kathryn September 22, 2011 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    I’m not sure what to call this but after a medical procedure I was prescribed ambien and was not aware one of the side effects was sleep walking. I was house sitting so there was a lot of nonvegan food in the house. I ate an entire pint of Haagen Dazs, as well as taking five more ambien and changing my email password. When I came out of the sleepwalking state (I was up already, just asleep and doing stuff with no awareness) I was horrified that I’d eaten ice cream and scared of my reaction to the drug.

    It wasn’t a mistake exactly but it also wasn’t a conscious choice. It was four years ago now and I still feel guilty about it because at some level it was a choice.

  10. Gloria September 22, 2011 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    For weeks I had been buying Trident Layers gum. I don’t remember if I chewed any but I did add packs to my daughter’s care packages. Who would have thought that gum needs gelatin?

  11. Brooke September 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    I think it is is almost impossible not to mess up sometimes.

  12. Annalise Baumann September 22, 2011 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    Keebler cinnamon grahams! I can’t tell you how long I looked for vegan cinnamon graham crackers, or how many recipes I almost made, but I finally checked the label on that nasty trans-fat laden brand, and jackpot! I’ve read the label at least twice, but double check before you buy them anyway. Yes, they do have a bit of partially hydrogenated something, but… cinnamon grahams!

  13. PCG September 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    Everyone makes mistakes, sometimes :). To those who say that she should have just eaten them to “honor the animal”- how does eating the products of an animal’s exploitation make the animal feel less exploited? I mean, if you want to eat your accidentally non-vegan products, I’m not going to judge you, but respect her choice, too.

  14. GetSkinnyGoVegan September 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    I TOTALLY would have done the same thing, except I could probably pass them off to my husband. He is vegan but if we buy something like that and screw up, which is easy to do when nearly everything has a V on it these days!!, then he will eat it. As long as it was honey, to him that would be different than meat or cheese by product. And I did eat honey a few times in Argentina. I was totally vegan there aside from a few times eating baked veggie cookies that contained honey. There was no Whole Foods and I was living without my husband and had sugar cravings. But that was years ago. It will be easier when the whole world is vegan. But I don’t think about throwing small amounts of food out, in general. Usually we eat everything, and the waste we contribute, well, I have enough worries I just have to try to control myself!!!!! But I totally would have thrown them in trash just because of the ick factor!

  15. Jeff September 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    I finally got up the nerve to ask my local Chinese place what was in the sauce in their General Tso’s Tofu, turns out they make it using chicken bones.

  16. DaveD September 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    While you might be assuming I’m trying to berate you with the “personal purity” comment on Twitter, I’m not. I cannot think of another logical reason why you would decide to not ingest something you already purchased for which you had an affinity.

    You expressed a desire to learn and grow. I think this may be one of those moments for reasons other than you think.

  17. erik zeus September 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Good article!

    I remember an incident with Oreos.
    Read online that they are vegan and buyed some.
    After i ate them i felt a bit ill (i’m lactose intolerant) – like, when i was eating dairy products (before i’ve gone vegan).
    So i looked up the ingredients and found out that European Oreos contain sweet whey powder …

    Another was honey in Cereal-like products (the package statet 100% [insert product]) and eggs in noodles (again: 100% [insert corn]).

    I hate such misleading labeling :(

  18. Lindsey September 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Honey is one of those things easy to miss. I’ve accidentally bought products with it before in natural food sections/stores when I look at only the allergen information instead of reading the full ingredients. I assumed I was safe by just reading the allergens since there usually aren’t animal ingredients in natural products as long as egg and dairy derived ingredients aren’t there.

    One product that drives me mad is Enjoy Life Foods crunch bars. The entire chocolate bar is vegan except that honey is the very last ingredient in the rice crisp cereal they use!! Like anyone would even notice if they didn’t use honey.

  19. Rhea September 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    Everyone makes mistakes. The question is what we knowingly do. Eating something that isn’t vegan by mistake is not the same as continuing to eat it after you know.

    I made a mistake when I bought something and like you, missed the ingredient on the box. Then I did the same thing you did – blogged about it.

    We are human!

  20. Melissa September 22, 2011 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    it happens to everyone. no matter how long someone has been vegan or how diligent someone is, mistakes happen. but you learn. i told my doctor i am vegan, so when she prescribed me specific multi vitamins, i thought nothing of taking them. i thought they were evaluated based on my food intolerances and my lifestyle. i learned later, via accident, that the vitamin D was sourced from lanolin. unfamiliar with supplements (since i relied on whole foods prior to), i wouldn’t have know the difference between D2 and D3 or that there was even a D2 and a D3. but now i do and now i can share with others so that they don’t make the same mistake i did. you always have to double check because living in a non vegan world makes vegans vulnerable. some omnivores don’t understand why we live the way we do and therefore, what products we would boycott. since it isn’t about the purity or ingestion, accidentally consuming isn’t the issue. you learned and now this mistake will reinforce your diligence and introduced you to another brand to shy away from. be kind to yourself and know it wasn’t purposely done (like so many others do everyday). you save many lives with your decisions and you continue to make them everyday. =)

  21. Chris Kasza September 22, 2011 at 11:24 am - Reply

    @DaveD, I’m of a similar mind set; if the purchase has been made then I try to honour the animal that had to die by having somebody consume the product and if there’s no one available then I’ll do it.
    However, this backfired on me when I ended up with a red chili sauce that I overlooked had “fish sauce” in it; I tried to eat some of the sauce and paid the price a few hours later as I was doubled over with stomach pain. Damn (mostly) healthy, whole foods diet has left me with little to no digestive enzymes to battle animal by-products.

  22. nondairydreamer September 22, 2011 at 10:56 am - Reply

    Completely agree. It’s a learning process! Getting discouraged when we realize that shampoo we’ve been using for 3 years has animal byproducts isn’t worth it. Just move on from that shampoo and continue on your journey!

  23. […] Read full article […]

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  25. DaveD September 22, 2011 at 10:19 am - Reply

    The purchase was made, what harm comes from ingestion?

  26. DaveD September 22, 2011 at 10:08 am - Reply

    Why not just eat the crackers?

    • KD September 22, 2011 at 10:11 am - Reply

      I chose not to eat them because I didn’t want to consume any more animal products than I already had. Someone else might have just finished out the box, I didn’t.

  27. Faith @ For the Health of It September 22, 2011 at 9:18 am - Reply

    I recently did that with almond cheese. Rookie mistake not to check the back for casein – I was so bummed when I got home! I’m usually a die-hard Daiya eater, so I never think to read the back of the cheese (since I always buy the same thing and it’s definitely vegan) that in my excitement to try an almond milk cheddar, I forgot to look. Lesson learned, though – don’t get too hyped over a fun new product and automatically assume! (Although that is one thing that drives me bonkers – why bother making an animal product substitute if you’re still going to leave certain animal products IN IT?!?!?!)

  28. KD September 22, 2011 at 9:17 am - Reply

    I should mention here that there were only a few crackers left in the box (think 2), not enough to pass along to a friend. That said, we shouldn’t waste food- everyone is right about that.

  29. Pete September 22, 2011 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Whenever I come across non-vegan food just going to be thrown out (by non-vegans), I try to take it and give to a homeless person–I am not contributing to the use of an animal, and I am not wasting the animals’ sacrifice. Never made sense to me to throw it in the garbage

  30. Me September 22, 2011 at 9:11 am - Reply

    P.S. O!M!G! you ate HONEY!!!!! and you call yourself a vegan :)

    This happens occasionally at our house as well. Someone forgets to read the label or misses an ingredient and we end up with animal products in our kitchen. The worst was spaghetti sauce with turkey in it. I poured it in the pan and then the smell hit me and my heart sank and I felt incredibly bad. I’ve never scrubbed a pot so much.
    Other times it’s honey and I briefly think about tossing it and then think I’ve already bought it, I’ve already opened it, I’ve already eaten half the box, oh well, won’t by it again but I’ll finish this box. because for me there’s a difference between eating ground turkey carcass and bee vomit.

    but we do the best we can around here, we aim for 100% but know that’s sometimes just a goal and not reality and yeah we move on and know not to make the same mistakes again.

  31. Matt September 22, 2011 at 9:06 am - Reply

    Totally understandable to make accidental mistakes here and there, it happens to the best of us.

    You thought you’d confirmed the vegan-ness of the crackers, you read the ingredients – you missed the honey. I’ve done the same exact thing.

    What grinds my gears are the folks who claim they’re vegan but don’t bother reading ingredients and just assume things to be vegan, or the people who claim to be vegan and “cheat” here and there, on purpose (ie: nearly every celebrity “vegan” ever.)

    PS: With crackers you could have broken them up and fed them to birds. That’s what I’ve done in the past in similar bread-cracker scenarios.

    • KD September 22, 2011 at 9:07 am - Reply

      That’s a great idea about breaking them up for the birds, I didn’t think of that! Thanks!

  32. Taryn September 22, 2011 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Ugh, this happened to me a few weeks ago! I saw a box of cookies and I thought I’d treat myself, I scanned the ingredients and was shocked to find out they were vegan.

    A full sleeve of them later (and a few days) the dreaded words “modified milk ingredients” caught my eye on the box. What the hell! I’d read the list! I guess in my haste, I missed it.

    I was mad at myself for not being more diligent, but honestly… it happens. It doesn’t make me (us) any less vegan! We all make mistakes, whether we’re just starting out or we’ve been vegan for years. What do we do? Learn from it, and move on.

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